NLG’s Solidarity Work for Democracy in Honduras

Emily Yozell, International Committee Task Force on the Americas

Inter-American Human Rights Court issues decision against Honduras, orders restitution and reparations for judges summarily dismissed for opposing 2009 military coup. NLG amicus brief accepted and cited in October decision.

During early morning hours of Sunday June 28 in 2009, the Armed Forces kidnapped and expatriated via military helicopter the constitutionally elected President, Manuel Zelaya Rosales, handing him over to foreign authorities in Costa Rica while still dressed in his pajamas. This constituted a flagrant violation of Article 102 of the Honduran Constitution as well as numerous international legal instruments. However, to date (Nov. 15, 2015) the Supreme Court of Honduras has failed to undertake any legal action to sanction those responsible for violating the Constitution and international human rights law.  The golpistas, sanctioned by the Honduran Supreme Court, summarily dismissed members of the judiciary who challenged the legality of the coup d’etat.  The Guild’s International Committee sponsored an international observation and fact-finding mission jointly with the American Association of Jurists (AAJ), the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) and the International Association Against Torture to explore the legal crisis in Honduras caused by the coup and published a report denouncing the grave breach of the rule of law. See:

During the past six years, the NLG Task Force on the Americas has followed the situation in Honduras providing solidarity support as well as some legal assistance to members of the Popular Resistance persecuted by the illegitimate Honduran authorities. Since our 2009 delegation met with the Honduran Association of Democratic Judges (ADJ), the Guild has provided legal accompaniment, including Court observation at the February 2015 Inter-American Court for Human Rights in Costa Rica and the submission of an amicus curae brief on behalf of the affected AJD judges and Supreme Court Magistrate in the case of Lopez-Lone and others v. Honduras.[1]  The submission of Amicus is a useful tool for the Guild to use in both our international and other committee work.

The NLG submitted one of seven amici briefs and specifically addressed the right to an independent judiciary in the context of impunity and the duty to respect human rights defenders.  We also asked the Court to dictate special reparations measures to the Honduran government, requiring public declarations assuming responsibility for violating the American Convention on Human Rights, as well as ordering restitution for each petitioner. We urged the Court to send a clear signal that Honduras and other nations in the region have a clear duty to protect the work of human rights defenders and members of the judiciary in order to address resurging insecurity and impunity in the region.[2]

The Court unanimously held the State of Honduras responsible for violating petitioners’ rights of freedom of expression, association and assembly, political rights, judicial guarantees, equal treatment in employment, and the principal of legality with regards to disciplinary processes and their dismissal from Judiciary for their conduct defending Democracy and the Rule of Law in the context of the June, 2009 coup.

This case was prioritized by the OAS Inter-American human rights system as it enabled the Court the opportunity to denounce human rights violations in the context of the 2009 military coup and subsequent judicial coup. Although these actions had been widely denounced by the international community including the OAS, the UN and international civil society, the US government formally recognized the illegitimate coup government imposed by rightwing as well as subsequent  National Party successors who have maintained power by violently repressing political opposition, popular organizations and intervening to prevent a free and fair electoral process. See the 2013 election observation report for details.[3]

Most recently, NLG members visited Honduras in August, 2015 to document the continuance of human rights violations, specifically the land-grabbing of peasant and indigenous traditional lands to create “Zones for Economic Development and Employment” (ZEDEs) and has just released a short documentary film, ZEDEs: Land Grabbing and Necolonialism in Honduras to highlight this unjust extreme neoliberal tactic to dispossess and dominate the population in favor of foreign investment.[4]

[1] For a description of this case and to read the Court decision in Spanish, see:

[2] Read NLG brief in Spanish:; observe the Court proceedings:

[3] For further detail and analysis of the context of the political and legal events post military coup, see the NLG 2013 Electoral delegation report at:

[4] To learn more and watch this concise bi-lingual rendition of the vital land struggle being waged, please see:

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